Once you’ve made the decision to build a website for your manufacturing business, the temptation is to jump straight in, sign up to a hosting company, and build something. But this is often a big mistake.
There are several things you need to consider before building your website, and if you neglect them, you could find yourself wasting time, effort, and money.
Know what you want
Plan your SEO beforehand
Decide your budget and timeframe
Wireframe your website
Hosting and domain name
Plan for functionality
Always begin with the end in mind. What is the primary purpose of your website? Is it to generate leads? Get direct sales? Make people aware of your products? Provide further information for interested buyers?
Some of this will depend on whether you’re a new startup in your industry or a well-established presence. It also depends on what your company goals are and your level of digital marketing know-how.
For example, a hi-tech manufacturer making electronic products in a cutting-edge industry like the Internet of Things will probably want a combination of results. They may want to build awareness of products, create interest, generate leads, and make lots of sales.
Established manufacturing businesses (automobiles, car parts, etc.) may simply want to expand their number of leads or increase sales.
Knowing what you want relative to where you are at the moment will help you develop a sound overall strategy for your website.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vital component of building a website that ranks highly on search engines such as Google. It’s best to start planning the SEO elements before building your website, rather than try to figure them out on the fly.
Start researching keywords related to your industry by using Google Adwords keyword research tool. You can use those keywords to create your titles and tags, and to come up with content that is likely to be popular.
For example, a company that manufactures wooden toys can get plenty of keyword and key-phrase ideas when they search for “wooden toys”:
Get a clear idea of cost and timeframe for the website build. This isn’t always easy, as websites often end up costing more and taking longer than you think.
To get a ballpark figure for both costs and time, get several quotes from developers and content writers, then take an average.
Or, you could just build it yourself. WordPress or Wix sites are fairly easy to put together and maintain, and there are plenty of online tutorials to guide you -- and you won’t even have to pay for a template if you have excellent graphic design and web development skills.
Beware that if you’re planning to build your website in-house, it may take a lot longer than getting it done professionally and the site might seem fairly simplistic. It may also lack some of the functionality you need.
Wireframing is just a fancy way of saying “plan the layout” of your website. A wireframe is a visual schematic of what will appear on each page of your site. It’s more than just a handy outline. A wireframe is a useful tool that helps you decide how to lay out various elements of the website to best achieve their purpose.
This will often be a collaborative decision between you and your web development team: developers, designers, and content writers.
Obviously, an important part of your website strategy is having a good name for your website. It’s nice to get a keyword or two in the domain name, if you can, although this isn’t always possible.
Actually setting up hosting and choosing your domain name is quite a simple process, as most hosting companies have a domain name checker. They may also suggest slight variations if the one you want is already taken.
Be careful which domain extension you opt for (e.g., .com, .net, .org, etc.). It’s generally recommended that you go for .com extensions, as these are the ones people remember more easily and also view as being more secure.
This relates to point #1, “knowing what you want.” If you decide to use your website mainly for generating leads, then you’ll need features and systems that help in that regard, such as email capture, lead magnet downloads, etc.
If you want to use it for direct sales, then you’ll need email hosting functionality and some sort of e-commerce system in place.
You can always add widgets for some functions later, but it’s best to get the important functions laid out and planned during the framework stage to make the process run more smoothly.
If you’re outsourcing the building of your website, make sure you shop around and hire a reputable and skilled partner. Ask to see previous websites, preferably in your industry, as this will give you confidence that they can deliver exactly what you want.
Once you have shortlisted possible candidates, meet with them to discuss points #1-6 mentioned above. They should have a good understanding of your needs and requirements in order to make the project run smoothly. If they don’t mention things like SEO and different types of functionality that could make your site successful, or they seem disinterested in what you want to achieve with the website, then look elsewhere.